Sondash fills the southwest corner of the continent. From west to east, Sondash consists of a rocky coast with a narrow band of fertile fields and forests. From there the ground quickly rises to a daunting ridge of mountains that runs nearly the length of the country. There are a few gaps and passes through the range but the rest is essentially impassible and snowbound for much of the year, particularly to the north. The eastern side of the mountains fades gradually down into hilly countryside. The southern stretches of these are arid and home to numerous grape and olive growers. Further north the lands taper into grassy plains. For the most part, this area is high plains streaked by some streams and rivers and is prone to mild summers but somewhat harsh winters.
The dividing line between Sondash and Dresk is the Rilrak river which carves a deep canyon as it flows to the south. There is a very large stone bridge that crosses the canyon on the road between Illincia and Rowanville. So large in fact, that several vendors set up shops on the bridge itself during busy travel season, often leading to a noisy crowded traffic jam at times.The towns and villages of Sondash
Illincia - (pop. 113,000) The former seat of the kingdom of Ondileth when it was ruled by the monarchy and now capital of Sondash. It remains a city dominated by wealthy nobles and courtiers, or as the commoners call them, "old gold".
The city is home to the Illian Guard, perhaps the best funded and well-trained armed force in the Realms. In addition to defending Sondash, they are hired throughout Ondileth for protection of nobles, merchants, and caravans, in addition to training other armies in nearby cities. They also have an even more elite division known as the Illian Honor Guard that are devoted to the defense of Illincia and Lord Tesendis. Illincia derives a fair portion of its income from the services of the Guard.
Other active industries include many skilled trades like architects and builders, cartographers, fine or exotic art and artifact collectors, and wine traders and merchants. Illincia is also home to several very rich temples. Illincia is located on the high plains so it is usually quite comfortable in all but the hottest summers but the harsh winters are best weathered indoors.
Lord Azon Tesendis is the current ruler of Illincia and Sondash.
Clearfield - (pop. 9,500) A small town, about a day's march southwest from Illincia. This is the academy and training grounds for the Illian Guard. Not much here besides the soldiers and a small economy to keep them supported with basic needs (Which excludes brothels by order of the commander general). In addition to the barracks, training yards, and armory, just outside of the town is a small partial castle, where the Guards may practice laying siege (there is a full assortment of appropriate siege weaponry in the field next to it). Troublemakers in town are sentenced to the hard labor of rebuilding the stone castle after each "battle".
Port Matilda - (pop. 17,000) This bustling town on the western coast deals mostly with traders, trappers, and hunters. These lands on the western slopes of the Sondash mountains are somewhat more rugged and uncivilized so this area tends to attract correspondingly more self-sufficient characters. This includes a fairly vindictive set of guilds and factions, kept mostly in check by Ser Jerwick, a noble who also sometimes finds himself in contention with the leadership in Illincia.
Whiteside, Black Moshannon, Stronach, etc - As one travels north from the plains of central Sondash, these towns represent the order imposed on the land by a few generations of lords and princes. While none of them rival the lofty royal houses in Illincia, each tries to establish their own notion of standards and protect the nearby villages and farmers. Black Moshannon in particular is often in contention with rival Coudley, which lies just across the Rilrak from it, but under the rule of Dresk rather than Sondash. The further north one goes, the more rustic and dangerous things tend to become, especially with more restlessness from Oldwood Vale and some of the other darker forests.
DreskEast of Sondash is the land of Dresk. Dresk starts off as high plains near the Rilrak river and Rowandale, and decends generally down from there as one travels south and east. Just east of Rowandale is a forest called Greynor's wood that provided much of the wood that Rowandale was built from. This forest backs up against a range of tall hills that run to the southeast. On the far side of those hills are more woods that decend into another valley, flanked by a coastal mountain range to the east. Given the proximity to the sea, and the melt runoff from the two ranges, this valley is rather boggy, particularly as one gets closer to the southeast coast where it becomes full-fledged swampland.
The towns and villages of Dresk
Tazzenport - (pop. 119,000) This sprawling port city is the seat of power for Dresk. Lord Liam Veskin currently presides over the town council of Tazzenport and is the leader for the rest of Dresk as well. Tazzenport is a busy, noisy, and usually dirty working town. Its active port means that there are always people of foreign lands and other races mingling in the town. During the days, the weather is often sweltering, particularly during the summers, and tempers often flare in the muggy heat.
Tazzenport maintains a small town guard whose members are often as seedy as those they incarcerate. There is also an informal sailing militia that acts vaguely like a navy during times of conflict. They were instrumental in resisting the Tarnuchan invaders and a few proud old sailors still tell tales about the battles they or their fathers fought in.
Tazzenport is home to many importers, traders, and other shipping businesses. Being in such warm waters, the harbor is open year-round and is busy at all times. The ten huge storehouses by the docks impress many new arrivals as their unusual architecture and monstrous scale are unrivaled elsewhere. Tazzenport is ruled by a town council that consists of members of the various guilds and neighborhoods and despite their frequent squabbles, manage to keep the town running relatively smoothly. Veskin is new to power but as a former merchant guild leader, he has many friends and allies on the council.
Adjacent to Tazzenport is "Floattown", a ramshackle flotilla of boats, rafts, and other flotsam, and which serves as a floating refuge for an unknown number of paupers and vagrants.
Rowandale - (pop. 11,500) Farther up the hills from Tazzenport, and on the road between it and Illincia is Rowandale. It is a rather unremarkable little town, and owes most its existence to its central location for many of the routes and roads around Ondileth. Among the local trades are leatherworking, sourced from the oxen and cow pastures to the east, and spices and food grown in the fertile soil south of town. It is a little more cosmopolitan than most towns its size, and most of the locals are accustomed to seeing demihumans passing through or staying briefly in the town. In fact, several dwarven craftsmen have shops in the town, selling gems, custom jewelry, and other fine metals they caravan in from the dwarven lands to the Northeast. Rowandale is situated close to a forest called Greynor's Wood, and it has been a source of abundant game and wood, as well as providing refuge for a few folks not interested in city life.
Willowgrove - (pop. 3,700) A couple days travel to the northeast of Rowandale is a small village of halflings known as Willowgrove. Early relationships were rough between the halflings and the humans, but over the years it became clear that the halfings did well enough (in fact, perhaps better) if they were left alone, and so that is the policy that has endured since then. Willowgrove is a pleasant little village, and its proud residents work hard to keep it a safe and quiet place to live. Shenanigans (other than the routine and accepted halfling pranks and practical jokes) are frowned upon and nonconformists often find themselves alienated and seeking a new home. Some light trade for common staples takes place between Willowgrove and the other towns, but for the most part Willowgrove is self-sufficient and not much travel takes place to or from there.
Burntwood - (pop. 730) On the eastern side of the hills from Rowandale lies the small community of Burntwood. Named for a forest fire that nearly torched the earliest settlement here, Burntwood is now given over to an entire ale-brewing production. Barley is grown in fields to the north of the village and malted in large kilns around the town. Hops are harvested in the fertile soil father southest and all the brewing takes places in huge copper kettles and tanks housed in large barn-like structures. Burntwood is easily the largest producer of ales in Ondileth and beyond. Much of its product is exported into Sondash and elsewhere through the docks of Tazzenport. There are also quite a few dwarven brewmasters who supervise batches destined for Exen and other dwarven communities in the far north.
Coudley, Diehltown, Hawk Run, Berwinsdale, and Houtzdale - Coudley, besides being known for the gregarious Duke Elam and his frequent spats with Black Moshannon across the river from him, represents the farthest north that any real overisght extends from Tazzenport. North of this are several other towns and keeps, but they understand that they will get only limited attention from Lord Veskin and the other resources so far to the south. This means they rely more heavily on each other and band together as needed to protect their citizens and lands from harm. Berwinsdale and Hawk Run are both remote enough that they have often struggled to repel sinister things emerging from the rather primitive forests nearby. Militiamen, hunters, and other swords-for-hire are often invited to spend some time in these places aiding in their defense.
...OthersDagenthaw - a city on the fringes of the inhospitable Ivory Wastes, is legendary for its exotic cultures and curious customs. The journey there is perilous for even the best prepared traveller, so those that call this place home must have their own reasons for doing so.
Tebben - This large city in the Dindolial Woods is home to many elves along with humans and other races. It supposedly blends seamlessly into the trees and streams there, with delicate bridges and walkways connecting many of the homes and spaces.
Exen - The largest enclave of dwarves -- at least that humans might ever encounter -- live within the halls and towers of Exen, built half inside of a mountain, and half without. Most dwarven products that reach Sondash or Dresk are likely fashioned here as many of the other dwarven communities eschew trading with the outside races. The sunrises seen over the ocean from the higher towers outside the mountain are said to be unrivaled anywhere else in Ondilth.
The islands off the coast of Tazzenport (Dimirmeer, Tantha, Qarnos, Noril's Rock, and countless other smaller ones) have a colorful blend of races and clans that live there. Few of these are seen outside of Tazzenport or other harbors, but a whole microcosm of traders, pirates, and merchants call this their home.
The City-State of Dharama - This nearly mythical city in the lands far to the south is said to be larger than any in Ondileth, yet you'll seldom meet someone who has actually laid eyes on it. The stories though all mention that the buildings there are blue like the sea and justice is supposedly harsh and unforgiving there.
There are of course many other towns and villages within Ondileth itself, and obviously an entire world outside of Ondileth. These are just the basic places that a young adventurer from the area around Rowandale might know or have heard about.
Much more will be discovered as one leaves the comforts of home behind...
©2002 Brian Bloom, All rights reserved.